He has been excited, angry, offended and finally, when it was obvious Wye Park was a dead duck, outraged. But in private Cllr Ian Cooling was regarded as ‘on board’ with Project Alchemy and described as ‘enthusiastic’ by one of the Imperial plan’s leading proponents.
Cllr Cooling, who recently said that he is ‘moving on’ from questions about his allegiance during the brief life of Wye Park, features in the latest and largest release of documents from Kent County Council so far, made available to save-wye.org under the Freedom of Information Act. We will be publishing all 73 documents — consisting of emails, hand-written notes and letters — over the next few days. Amongst other revelations, the documents reveal:
- That all those involved in Project Alchemy — including Ashford leader Paul Clokie who two months ago protested that he did not know about the scale of Imperial’s housing plans — knew that the college was hoping to get permission to build homes on up to 400 acres and that it was seeking a £100 million endowment.
- That threatened with the total withdrawal of Imperial from Kent, officers at KCC were the original brains behind the Wye Park idea … not the college.
- That officers and leading councillors at KCC fell over themselves to express their boundless enthusiasm for Imperial’s plans.
- That plans for a road into Wye from the M20 and a new link to the A28 costing more than £30 million were worked up by Pete Raine’s strategic planning department at KCC in 2004, long before such a thing was demanded by Imperial.
But it is to Cllr Cooling and his silent friend, county councillor Charles Findlay, that the first document refers. It is a letter from Paul Carter, KCC leader, to Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial, shortly after a lunch held between the two men on November 22 last year. The lunch was four days after November 18 when Cllrs Cooling and Findlay were fully briefed by Imperial on the Wye Park plan — the date that Cllr Cooling insists is when he first knew about Project Alchemy even though he had mentioned Imperial’s science park plan to an Ashford council committee the previous May and despite being named in a document launching Project Alchemy which was dated November 8.
In his gushing letter Cllr Carter thanks Sir Richard for lunch and says that he ‘hopes you had a constructive meeting with Damian yesterday’, referring to the briefing that Ashford MP Damian Green received from Imperial on November 23. He continues: ‘I’m very much looking forward to 6th December and will be liasing closely with David [Brooks Wilson – Imperial’s now redundant director of estates] and John [McCready of consultants Ernst & Young] on the communications strategy.’
But it is Cllr Carter’s hand-written post script which will raise yet more questions about the conduct and allegiance of Wye’s two elected representatives:
So, Cllrs Cooling and Findlay were ‘on board’ and Carter was ‘delighted by their enthusiasm’.
We’ve given up hoping that Cllr Findlay might break his vow of silence when it comes to matters concerning his own constituency, but before Cllr Cooling ‘moves on’ this remarkable aside begins to throw a little light on what he was up to when, as he has told the village, he was ‘working behind the scenes’.
Read the full Carter letter here